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To Know A Woman Hardcover – March 7, 1991


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A provocative look into the mind of a 49-year-old former Israeli espionage agent who has retired following the accidental death of his wife, Oz's compelling psychological study raises but provides no easy answers to metaphysical questions. Respected in the secret service for his methodical working technique and self-control, Yoel Ravid is attempting to confront the unresolved issues of his marriage while remembering, almost despite himself, ``the rare, unexpected moments when the blackness of existence was momentarily illuminated.'' Fragments of memories and dreams--hallucinatory, mysterious--invade the ordered pattern of Yoel's daily routine. While Yoel beds his next-door neighbor (his uncharacteristic lack of circumspection is unconvincing), and tries to understand and protect his fragile teenage daughter, his inner life becomes more and more fevered until, turning down a summons from his former boss--which sends another agent to his death--he breaks through the shield separating him from real human contact. Recurrent references to incidents in Yoel's past that are never explained give this novel a lifelike credibility, but may disappoint readers who enjoy a story with revelations and closure. Yet Oz touches a universal chord in one man's anguished search for meaning in a country that is a microcosm of a chaotic, dangerous world.

Copyright 1991 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Review

Following the bizarre accidental death of his wife, Israeli secret service agent Yoel Ravid retires to the suburbs with his daughter, mother and mother-in-law. After a lifetime of uncovering other people's secrets he is forced to look back at the lies he has told himself; at the desolate enigma of his wife's life and death; his years of service to the state and the riddle of his daughter's behavior. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 262 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; 1st edition (March 7, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151904995
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151904990
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,438,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I picked up the book along others when I shop at public libraries and yard sales.
Sylviastel
It is beautifully written, as are all of Amos Oz's novels, but this one has a compelling sense of place and characters so real they breathe the same air we do.
Rebecca Winters
Sometimes this is frustrating to read, but as I got deeper and deeper into the book, I started to feel I was actually inside of his mind.
Linda Linguvic

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By David Rabenowitz on August 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
Mr Oz has taken the simpliest of stories and made it a wonderful book to read. His character development made the people so lifelike. A troubled soul has to come to terms with his life and the relationships he had and has with his wife, his daughter, his mother and mother-in-law. His growing awareness of the importance of just living made this novel a true joy. As the novel progresses, we become more involved with the present, rather than the past. Finally we are left with the feeling that the future will be fine.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Moten Swing on June 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
Don't expect a thriller. While Yoel, the protagonist, was a secret service agent, and while he struggles to remember key events from his past that haunt him, this is not a book about secret agents. There is no huge climax. No car chases.

Instead, this is a story of a man recovering from trauma, learning to relate to people, learning to love his daughter, learning to live without his wife. He wanders through his days in a fog, focusing on tiny details of the world, while not responding to the largest figures in his life. It is a story of a sad man who doesn't even know he is sad.

The textures of the book are amazing, giving the reader a perfect sense of the confusion and separation that is Yoel's life. The story builds nicely, and provides some suspense, but the main focus here is the window into the mind of a lost man.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By kp on May 24, 2001
Format: Paperback
It's amazing that Oz is able to make a novel out of some of the content in this book, such as the gardening details. Oz has written a story that focuses on the truer, less glamourous aspects of Yoel's life and succeeds in painting an ultimately genuine and touching picture of life in general. It's also surprising that the novel is so enjoyable considering that none of the characters are really likeable. Duby is one of the most likeable, but his role is limited. Netta, Ivria, the Krantzes, and the grandmothers are all charcters that are easy to detest. Yoel ends up being the heroic character even though the reader is never sure if he is just as flawed as the other characters, and as the other characters believe him to be. Oz has several very interesting techniques, the most interesting be his recycling of images and ideas throughout the novel. It's refreshing and clearly points out the unity of the story. It is definitely a psychological work, and sometimes borders on mystical. All of the international city references and Hebrew Poets that Netta reads lends it sophistication. The short chapters again keep the pace up, which the novel needs in order to not become mundane. On the whole, it's definitely a good piece of world literature and a nice opening to Oz in general. Or so says the legend...
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Winters on July 4, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a haunting novel that captures both the landscape and the soul of Israel. It is beautifully written, as are all of Amos Oz's novels, but this one has a compelling sense of place and characters so real they breathe the same air we do. The internal journey the protagonist undergoes suggests that life can provide an act two once one learns to forgive oneself.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sylviastel VINE VOICE on November 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
Amos Oz might be on the shortlist for the Nobel Prize for Literature. I have never read any of his other books. I picked up the book along others when I shop at public libraries and yard sales. This book was special because it was one of those books where I first got interested immediately. I am not an easy reader. I don't like books that play games with me. I'm not a fan of fiction for today because there seems to be little that I haven't read about yet. Amos Oz's protagonist is a complicated character. He is an Israeli and former spy for his country who spent most of his life away from his wife and daughter, Netta. It was nice to read about a man who loved his wife as much as he did. As if they were one person, rather than two separate individuals, guys, read carefully because women want to be loved spiritually and soulfully as these two people are brought together. Maybe it's given me hope that they are nice men out there for looking for a nice girl like myself. Whatever Amos Oz humanizes his character who must deal with his troubled teenage daughter, his mother and mother-in-law who both live with them. What surprised me is that the politics of the Israeli and middle-east are rarely mentioned as if there are other problems in their lives. It's nice to read that Israelis are not these monsters as portrayed in the media. Amos Oz enlightens readers like myself who never ventured to Israel or ever plan too because of all the problems there. Maybe the problems aren't about politics or differences, maybe the problems are just internal like the protagonist. It's funny how people are not different after all, only if the Israelis and Palestinans can make peace, then maybe there is hope after all. If we can celebrate our similarities rather than argue over differences, we would get along.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This 1989 novel by one of Israel's foremost novelists is considered a classic. It's set in Israel, mostly in the mind of the protagonist Yoel Ravid. He's a 23-year veteran of the Israeli secret service but that part of his life comes to a sudden end when his wife is killed in a freak accident in their home. In his grief he gives up the life he has known for so many years, but he still keeps his world view of secrets and hidden dangers. As a reader, we see his world through his eyes, detail by detail by excruciating detail as he describes his every move in the new home he has rented - the minutiae of his gardening, his descriptions of his house and every thought that crosses his mind no matter how minor. Sometimes this is frustrating to read, but as I got deeper and deeper into the book, I started to feel I was actually inside of his mind.

Yoel lives in an Israeli suburb with his 16-year old daughter, his mother and his mother-in-law. Their relations are all strained and uncomfortable. He befriends his real estate agent and becomes a mediator in his marital troubles. He also is visited by his ex-boss from the secret service who tries to get him to go back to work. Yoel refuses and the result of what happens then unnerves him. He also has a rather unique dysfunctional relationship with his attractive neighbor and her brother.

All of this is rather sad, tense and frustrating. It is also a little bit boring to read. The author is clearly talented and well respected around the world, winning various prizes for his work. But it's not likely I'll read any more of his books in the near future.
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